Monday, May 30, 2011

With Gratitude and Appreciation.... those who are serving our country today here and abroad, we thank you and pray for your safety each day.

...for their families who also serve by sharing their loved ones, we thank you as well. those who have served before, we will always remember your dedication.
   (In my own family, 3 uncles who served in World War II, and my own son who proudly served in the US Marines.)

   May this be a day we remember and cherish each and every loved one who has passed from our sight but will always be with us in our hearts.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Our Rose Garden: A Close-Up

       What a response we've had to our garden pictures!  Thanks to all of you for your ohs-and-ahs!  A bit of an encore and then we'll go on to other things.  With a disclaimer first...these pictures have been taken over several years since the gardens have started maturing.  Some things I've caught at just the right time; others have been just for the memory.   This year with our terribly dry autumn, blizzardy winter, and dry spring until the last few weeks, spring has not been the best for bloom.  Thankfully we have other happier years to fall back on...I guess it's kind of like those awful school pictures we all had...good pictures were a blessing!
        You'll remember that we live in the country in the hills of northeastern Oklahoma.  Our 100 year old house was part of a large cattle ranch in the early days of the state.  It has quite a history itself...but that will have to wait until we get some more work done before sharing!  No pictures of it now.  Trust me on that one!!
        Because of how they had the cattle operation set up (long gone by now), the house was built far enough from the road to leave a very large area that was for working the immediate farm.  Those buildings and pens, etc. have disappeared so we are blessed with a large yard that slopes down the hill instead.   Some of the "leftovers" (a huge concrete slab and a lonely chicken house) we did take out and that's where the gardens got started.  Two huge old trees, an oak and a hackberry, both taller than the house when it was built, are still with us; most of the other large shade trees follow the curve of the road except for a few in the back yard.  Everything has been worked around the redbud trees that volunteered close around the house and now are a lovely frame for the cherries. 
       I did find a picture of how the rose garden looked when we first laid it out.  You can see how Les worked the curve just right to lie at the bottom of the hill.  We're both very fond of the old-fashioned roses...they are extremely hardy, easy to care for, and have incredible fragrance.  Along with those we love the rugosas...their tough background gives them an advantage in our strange Oklahoma weather!  Although most of these bloom mainly in the spring, they surprise us now and then through the summer and more so in the fall.  

      Mixed in with these are some modern favorites, plus the wonderful Knockout line.  The Knockouts form the roadside frame for the arbor and they do the job with great enthusiasm.  They have grown exuberantly and bloom all season; they're a great line.  This year we added the Sunny Knockout and we can hardly wait to see what they do.
      Probably our most unusual rose story comes with the strange-looking old tree on the left side of the was growing at that strange 45 degree angle when I moved here 25 years ago.  I kept thinking that the next storm would take it out but it kept surprising me by growing larger and at that same angle! 
      We planted a climber (I think it's New Dawn) and then it became a love affair of sorts!  In 2 years the rose had simply scampered up the tree, doing what it does best, and rewarded us every year afterwards with gorgeous cascades of rosy tendrils.  Finally last year the old tree met its match in one of our storms; the rose and tree are so entwined that we haven't decided yet how we'll separate them!  For the moment at least they are still buddies!
       I mentioned in another post that my grandmother had rooted some more rose cuttings for me just before she passed away.  These are still with me all these years later...and live in a special spot that is their own.  I also described how her gardens grew in abundant mixed beds...perhaps that's why I feel these gardens are so "right" for where we live!
       When we saw the Peace Garden at Heirloom Roses a few years ago, Les knew that that was exactly how he wanted our rose garden to look.  It was a lovely spot surrounded by hedge roses with pine trees at the entrance, which gave it a separate, secluded look.  It was done in all white roses planted in a soft oval as a tribute to the victims of 9/11.  There were benches inside for a rest or a time of thoughtfulness.  It was a totally peaceful place.
          Our weathered garden bench has gotten a lot of use where it is now; it's a perfect spot for resting or daydreaming both morning and evening.  This has become our "peace garden" too...a quite spot to enjoy and reflect...and plan...because there are always more roses we'll want to add next year!  Isn't that a part of the fun in having a garden?   We always have something to look forward to!

Irises Too!....Always!

      Irises have always been favorites of one time I was so involved with growing them that I had one of the tour gardens when Tulsa hosted the national convention years ago.  Even through his teen years my son also enjoyed them...working enthusiastically in the Iris Society with me (quite an accomplishment when you can get a youngster to weed, plant, even show them!)

     When we moved to this old house, of course the irises came with me but had to be put aside because of work on the house, then having the flower shop for so many years.  The ones that survived now live in mixed harmony with everything else (totally unlike the "irises only" beds I had before!).   I'm lucky that I have some of the newer ones still but some that were my father's and my grandmother's as well.  They all fit quite nicely, the "old" folks and younger ones alike.  Most of these are close-ups (ready, Mr. de Mille!) rather than garden shots.

      Under the redbud trees there is a bed that has great clumps of tectorum, a delightful little species iris that prefers shade and looks like so many floating butterflies in a breeze.  (Iris:  these pictures are for you!!)
      There is a bed of the prolific blue Siberian irises that came from my father's garden, as well as a few spurias (which I fell in love with the first time I saw them in California where they grow superbly!). 

      Other than that we start spring with the charming little ones, the "babies", from the dwarfs to
the border bearded that live among the rocks bordering the beds.  They entertain us until the tall beardeds come along...and I have to admit, I'll probably always love them the most!
      Even after all these years my favorite pink is still the incomparable "Beverly Sills".  I saw it before it was introduced in the hybridizer's garden in California where it went by the garden nickname of "Bubbles"...just like Beverly!  Even though there are new and more striking pinks, a good prima donna can't be outclassed (just like its namesake!)
      I made a terrible mistake all those years ago when I got the bright idea of doing an all pastel bed where I could see it from inside the house...I thought soft pinks, white, blues, and lavenders would be delicate and charming.  It was the most bland and boring bed I ever had and was totally changed out after the first year!  Found out very quickly that you're lost without a bit of brightness, or a strong color, especially some yellow for instance to "spark" everything!  I guess that's why mixed borders are so much more exciting!    
      Large clumps or rows of one particular shade of iris (all soft blues, etc.) can be definitely striking as any flower can be en masse.  I suppose though that since irises are such independent sorts, hardy and prolific, and such classy garden objects, they shine better in a single clump of each variety.  Such prima donnas can stand out among the other flowers just as the divine Beverly could outshine the rest on a stage full of people!
       Can you tell that I still love these most?  But I love them best now in our old-fashioned gardens where they blend into a tapestry with all the other jewels!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nearer God's Heart in a Garden....

      One of the things I've promised a lot of our friends (and never seem to get done) is that I would take the time to send them pictures of our gardens...the gardens that have we've laid out, nurtured and cherished for some years now.  Actually....Les,  even with all he's been through, gets the credit for what has been accomplished.  Today seems to be the perfect day to keep my is my birthday and, more importantly, our 14th anniversary!  Those who know us well know what a remarkable achievement that is!

      Les and I met in the mid-90's after both of us had lost our spouses about the same time.  We had gone to the same high school but for some reason our paths had never crossed.  We found that we loved so many things in living, gardening, antiques and vintage things...even German Shepherds!  In 1997 we married.  We would live in our old 100-year old house in the northeastern Oklahoma hills, create beautiful gardens, and grow old together quite gracefully...we thought.

      Three weeks before we were to get married, doctors found a malignant tumor in the base of Les' tongue.  He had no idea it was there.  Different doctors had different ideas about treatment (most of them pretty drastic), so the future prognosis was pretty scary.  There was no question in my mind though that we wouldn't go ahead with the wedding...I had known for a long time that he was the best thing that had ever happened to me!

      After our wedding we started planning wonderful gardens.  At the time I had had a flower shop in another town for almost 20 years so I had never had a chance to develop the old-fashioned gardens this gracious old house deserved.  Although I had had a large garden where we lived before and moved a very extensive iris garden with me, most everything had dwindled to whatever could take care of itself (anyone who has ever worked in a flower shop understands!!)   I just had never had the time.

      Working with volunteer redbud trees that had been "doing their own thing" all those years plus 2 lilac bushes and a japonica (flowering quince) that I had planted when I moved, we started with a mixed bed by the patio, added one surrounding some redbud trees, then another facing it with a fountain between....and so on as we thought of more and more things we loved and wanted to include.  Eventually our ideas had to be curtailed by the need to get on with the cancer treatments.

       By the next February we had found the doctors we knew were right for the University of Washington in Seattle.  This was the beginning of a long, sometimes frightening, always interesting journey to address this unusual "critter" that had invaded our lives.  Our first trip to Seattle was the beginning of another love affair...we went at the time of year the Yoshino cherry trees were in full bloom.   There were great avenues of these beautiful trees at the Medical Center, magnificent ones over a hundred years old on the UW campus...we had come to a city where we were totally awestruck by the beauty everywhere.  There were other new things for us to love as well, but the glory of these trees in bloom made a lasting impression on us.  We would simply have to have some of our own!
       This was the first of so many trips back and forth over the next ten years...the tumor was destroyed thanks to these magnificent doctors.  Reconstructive surgeries however went on for some time...but each phase had the rewards of Les' progress, the friendship of a group of incredible brilliant doctors, and being able to come home each time to our ever expanding gardens.
       Early on we decided that, as a tribute to each of our anniversaries and this journey, we would plant a Yoshino cherry each year until we could have our own magnificent display.  Although we don't have quite the same climate that they love in Seattle, our Yoshinos have acclimated themselves quite nicely to our strange Oklahoma weather and provide a spring display that surprises people who drive down our country road!
      Now our garden is a beautiful mixture of many more of my beloved lilacs, spirea, mock orange, hydrangeas, more quince, Les' peonies, crepe myrtles, daylilies, clematis, hostas, a dozen redbud trees (all of whom volunteered!), summer phlox, bright monarda for the hummingbirds, summer annuals, plus an ever-growing iris garden again.
      By now the garden has spilled down a slight hillside with the cherry trees watching over each bed; at the bottom of the hill close to the road Les decided that was the place for our rose garden.  After his mother passed away, he wanted to create a special way to remember this gentle lovely now the cherry trees create a frame for a garden that lies in a peaceful curl that lets us enjoy our old-fashioned roses from either side.  A white arch lets my favorite pink climber frame a walkway...and each year new roses join the others.  It is a fragrant garden and serene.
      We have other friends that love our gardens as well...for several years we had a white squirrel that enjoyed visiting us, even getting close enough to the patio to snack at the bird feeders.  There are families of barn swallows and martins that return each year to raise their new children here; house finches and the funny little goldfinches love it too.  Some visit for short periods...just last week before our massive storms we had a touring group of painted buntings that felt our yard had elegant buffets for them.  We hope they'll return when the weather settles down.
       We have found such peace in these gardens; it has been a refuge from his battles.  I've walked with him through each step, listened each time he has said, "It will get better", and watched as he has pushed to keep working and regain his strength in each recovery.  I can honestly say that he is the strongest man I have ever known.
      He has encouraged each new endeavor that I have tackled, he has been my voice of reason and wisdom that helps me (hopefully) make good decisions, he has raised an eyebrow or wrinkled his nose at my foibles and goof-ups, and he is always there when I just need to sit by his side.  He is a strong man who know how to be gentle; he is a quiet man who shares his thoughts carefully.  Above all else, he is the man who has taught me to live life fearlessly, to be spontaneous, and to enjoy each and every moment.  In addition he has dreamed of a place of beauty and peace...and is bringing it to life.  The line in the poem "one's nearer God's heart in a garden, than any place else on earth" is so true for us. 
      Thank you, dearest Les, for having the soul of an artist to bring this dream into reality, for creating a haven for us to enjoy, and for being my strength, my joy, and my great love.  Thank you for these fourteen years...and for looking forward with me to so many, many more.

      Happy anniversary!  I love you!